A sign is a representation of an object that implies a connection between itself and its object. A natural sign bears a causal relation to its object—for instance, thunder is a sign of storm. A conventional sign signifies by agreement, as a full stop signifies the end of a sentence. (This is in contrast to a symbol which stands for another thing, as a flag may be a symbol of a nation).
The way a sign signifies is called semiosis which is a topic of semiotics and philosophy of language.
How a sign is perceived depends upon what is intended or expressed in the semiotic relationship of:
- Significance (i.e. meaning)
Thus, for example, people may speak of the significance of events, the signification of characters, the meaning of sentences, or the import of a communication. Different ways of relating signs to their objects are called modes of signification.
Uses of conventional signs are varied. Usually the goal is to elicit a response or simply inform. That can be achieved by marking something, displaying a message (i.e. a notice), drawing attention or presenting evidence of an underlying cause (for instance, medical symptoms signify a disease), performing a bodily gesture, etc.
Famous quotes containing the word sign:
“Olivia Dandridge: You dont have to say it, Captain. I know all this is because of me. Because I wanted to see the West. Because I wasnt, I wasnt army enough to stay the winter.
Capt. Brittles: Youre not quite army yet miss, or youd know never to apologize. Its a sign of weakness.”
—Frank S. Nugent (19081965)
“Many men are deeply moved by the mere semblance of suffering in a woman; they take the look of pain for a sign of constancy or of love.”
—Honoré De Balzac (17991850)
“An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
—Bible: New Testament, Matthew 12:39.